In a world seemingly obsessed with superhero films, do we really need another one?
After the plethora of disappointments of late from the DC and Marvel Cinematic Universes – Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Black Adam, Shazam! Fury of the Gods and perhaps the most uninteresting of all, The Flash – it's good to finally leave the cinema having experienced something authentic and entertaining.
Directed by Angel Manuel Soto, Blue Beetle tells the story of Jaime Reyes (wonderfully played by Xolo Mariduena) as he returns home from studying pre-law in Gotham City.
Home is the wrong side of the tracks in the fictional, futuristic Palmera City. Upon his return, Jaime discovers that his family is facing eviction by a company called Kord Corporations.
In an attempt to help his family, Jaime gets a job as a cleaner at the mansion of Kord Corporation’s evil chief executive Victoria Kord, played by Susan Sarandon. There he also meets Victoria’s niece Jenny (Bruna Marquezine). While overhearing them argue, Jaime comes to Jenny’s defence which leads to him being fired from the job.
The plot picks up when Jaime is then caught up in Victoria’s plans to use an ancient alien technological device called The Scarab – which she has scoured the world in search for – to create an army of cyborg robocops.
For unknown reasons, The Scarab chooses Jaime as a host, connecting to his spine, and giving him an electric blue exoskeleton with a built-in artificially intelligent co-pilot – arming him with superhero traits such as the ability to fly, as well as energy beams and an arsenal of weapons.
There is nothing extraordinary about the premise of Blue Beetle. It follows the generic story arch of most superhero stories – a familiar trope that audiences have come to know and love.
However, what makes Blue Beetle and its story more interesting than other typical superhero films is that Jaime isn’t tragic and he’s far from being alone. Despite their struggles, Jaime’s family are around him, supporting him and fighting with him from the very beginning.
From his dark-humoured little sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo) to his hilarious, whip smart Uncle Rudy (George Lopez) and his loveable supportive parents, Jaime’s family are an integral part of the plot, turning this superhero story into a heartfelt, family drama as well.
Special mention must be given to Jaime’s sweet and unassuming grandmother Nana (Adriana Barraza), who has more than one secret reveal that filled the cinema with more applause than any fight scene and more laughter than any of the one liners by the other characters.
Blue Beetle opens up the genre to more diverse characters as DC's first Latino-led superhero film, featuring the story of a Latin American family.
However, was this a perfect superhero flick? No, but they rarely are these days.
There were no real plot twists, the chemistry between Jaime and Jenny didn’t feel quite right, and the back story and origin of the Scarab was not explored enough. Some fight scenes felt a little too long (don't they always?) and the character of Victoria came off as generic, with the antagonist lacking any depth or nuance.
But what Blue Beetle mastered instead was the perfect balance between drama, action and comedy within the story of a family who love each other.
And while we can all appreciate epic fight scenes, impressive CGI and witty one-liners, the oversaturated genre of superhero films can learn about the impact of authentic, character-driven storytelling from Blue Beetle.
Blue Beetle is now playing in cinemas across the UAE